NLCS 5: MIL vs. LAD, ALCS 4: BOS vs. HOU — “The show must go on”, an apt motto for this dramatic postseason

“Emotion, excitement, farce, melodrama, scene, spectacle, tension, tragedy, crisis, histrionics, theatrics, turmoil in life” — all synonyms for “drama” that would still fit whatever is going on this postseason, especially in the ALCS. It also kind of feels like the beginnings of a new rivalry between the Red Sox and Astros. But the NLCS is certainly seeing its share of the dramatics too.

NLCS: Brewers at Dodgers
The Brewers’ starter only threw to one batter this afternoon (just 5 pitches) before being pulled from the game. They later announced he will actually start the next game (Game 6), so they didn’t want to exhaust him today. So their first reliever ended up throwing into the 6th inning, more of a starter than the starter, with 70 pitches and 8 strikeouts. But none of that or the supporting relievers seemed to stop the Dodgers offense today.

Actually, they were held off until the 5th inning when the lead-off batter singled and ended up at 2nd on a throwing error. He then stole 3rd and scored on a 1-out single. And a lead-off single in the 6th moved to 2nd on a hit-by-pitch and then scored on a 1-out single. That was the end of the pseudo-starter’s outing, and his new reliever gave up a 2-out single that scored one more run but also got the other runner out trying to go to 3rd in a great defensive play. In the 7th, with 1 out, a walk and double put runners in scoring position. The first runner scored on a single, the next on a ground out.

And the Dodgers sent in one of their best starters, who went a full 7 innings and only gave up 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 9 Milwaukee batters. He only gave up 1 run to the Brewers under his tenure. In the 3rd, a 1-out single moved to 2nd on a walk and then scored on a double. A 2-out walk loaded up the bases but Kershaw got out of that jam. It wasn’t until the 9th that the Brewers got another offensive shot. With 2 outs and the 2nd reliever of the inning, a batter doubled, moved to 3rd on defensive indifference, and then scored on a pinch-hit double. It wasn’t enough.

Final score: 5-2 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 3-2

ALCS: Red Sox at Astros
Meanwhile, in Houston, things are getting ugly. Fast. The teams went back-and-forth in offensive strength, no thanks to some pretty heated debates over some questionable calls — like a probable home run call that was ruled (and later somehow “upheld” but notably not “confirmed”) as “fan interference”. It immediately drew comparisons to the whole Jeffrey Maier incident from the 1996 ALCS, though it was much closer to other potential fan incidents.

Beyond that, each team pretty much let in to each team’s pitchers to advance their cause. In the 1st, the Red Sox’s lead-off batter was hit by a pitch, then he and a 1-out walk moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. They both scored on a single. The Astros got one of those runs back in the 2nd when a lead-off double scored on an RBI single.

The Red Sox’s lead-off double ended up scoring on a double to take back their run in the 3rd. But the Astros came back in the bottom of that inning with a lead-off solo home run and a double that later scored on a 2-out single to tie up the game. A 1-out solo home run put the Astros in the lead for the first time tonight. But the Red Sox tied it up again in the 5th with a 1-out double scoring on a 2-out single.

The Astros pushed on ahead in the bottom of the 5th when their 1-out single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single. The visitors flipped the story again in the 6th. With 2 outs, they got a double that scored as part of a big 2-run home run. Then the Red Sox kept going. In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with 2 outs before the Astros’ reliever walked in a run. And in a similar story of the night, a 1-out single in the 8th moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then scored on a 2-out single.

The home team got one more chance to make an impact in the bottom of the 8th. A lead-off single was tagged out trying to make it a double. Then a hit-by-pitch and double moved runners to scoring position. A ground out scored the lead runner, but a strikeout ended the Astros chance at a comeback.

Final score: 8-6 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 3-1

In Yankee Universe news: Didi Gregorius had his surgery on his partially torn UCL, also known as Tommy John surgery. It went “as expected”, and if his recovery progresses “as expected”, Gregorius should be back in pinstripes around the All-Star Break, as early as June, as late as August.

Of course, this has fueled rumors about potential replacements. However, I’m guessing that because Gregorius is scheduled to comeback next season that they might see how in-house talent progresses in Spring Training before going fishing for a replacement. I mean, they already have Walker, Wade, Torreyes, Hechavarria, Torres, and Andujar (as well as Voit and Bird at 1st) on the roster. It’s not like they’re hurting for talented infielders.

And as Yankee baseball season is over, it seems the Yankees themselves have turned to being fans of other sports. Aaron Judge (and friends) were court side for Knicks’ home opener (and eventual victory) at Madison Square Garden. A crowd scan found his face on the big screen, much to the glee of other fellow New Yorkers. Judge was also the answer to a clue on Jeopardy! two nights ago. In other words, the season may be over, but the Yankees aren’t exactly “out of sight, out of mind”.

Go Yankees!

NLCS 1: LAD vs. MIL — Early stumbles make a hard come back

After a few non-baseball days, the next series of games began tonight to determine which final two teams would advance to the coming World Series. In the National League, the Dodgers faced off against the Brewers and certainly stumbled their way through the game.

The Dodgers sent their best pitcher Kershaw to the mound to kick off this series, and it wasn’t a great outcome because his defense wasn’t playing at the level they were at the previous series. The Brewers pieced together their bullpen for a pitching staff tonight and had much better luck until the end when their holes started showing.

The Dodgers got on the board first, with a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd by the recently acquired star Machado. But the Brewers tied up the game with their own lead-off homer in the 3rd. Then they loaded the bases with a single, a walk, and a catcher’s interference before a sacrifice fly and missed catch error scored a run.

In the 4th, the Dodgers gave up a walk and single that put runners on the corners due in part to another missed catch error. A single scored both those runners to double the Brewers’ score. That runner then stole 2nd, which was marked as safe after an overturned challenge, and then scored on a 2-out single. And a lead-off solo home run in the 7th added the insurance run the Brewers ended up needing.

So, down by 5 runs, the Dodgers needed some power to even attempt a comeback in the 8th. A lead-off single was forced out on a grounder, then a new reliever gave up a single and a 2-out walk to load the bases. With another new reliever, a single scored the first two runners and another single scored the next one to edge the Dodgers closer. Down to their last out in the 9th, the Dodgers worked a walk that scored on an RBI triple before a strikeout ended the Dodgers rally just short of a win or possible tie.

Final score: 6-5 Brewers, Brewers lead series 1-0

And in Yankee Universe news: now that their season is over, the Yankee news is filled with conversations about potential off-season trades, free agent signings and re-signings, and injuries and surgeries. A few popular veterans are technically up for free agency or a contract buy-out option this off-season like Gardner, Happ, Britton, McCutchen, Robertson, and Sabathia, all of whom had a major impact in the Yankees’ drive to the postseason. So it will be interesting to see which players will be in pinstripes and which will be in opposing uniforms next season.

Meanwhile, the Yankees announced that CC Sabathia had surgery today to clean-up his problematic knee. It’s the same surgery he had last year before the season, and it seemed to work for him, having quite the successful season. Sabathia has made it clear he wants one more season, specifically with the Yankees as he wants to go to London with the team, and (more importantly) he wants another victory parade.

And in rather surprising news, it seems that Didi Gregorius partially torn his UCL in one of the first 2 ALDS games at Fenway and then played the rest of the series with that injury without telling anyone. It certainly explains some lackluster (and very un-Didi-like) defense in a few of the games. He will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the injured elbow ligament.

Now, because he’s not a pitcher, the recovery time is shorter, which means Spring and early games of 2019 are out. But once he has the surgery, they can set a more definite timeline. Realistically, he will rejoin the team sometime before the All-Star Break. But I think everyone would rather have a fully recovered, healthy Gregorius than a hurting one.

Go Yankees!

NLDS 4: LAD vs. ATL & ALDS 3: HOU vs. CLE, BOS vs. NYY — One solid win, one strong win, one sloppy loss

Okay, after today’s games, the Division Series is down to just one series to determine which teams advance to the Championship Series. And today’s games just kept the drama of the postseason rolling. In the end, three teams emerged as overwhelmingly powerful.

NLDS: Dodgers at Braves
First, the NLDS is over thanks to the Dodgers emerging as the clear winner of that series. Mostly, this afternoon was a show of the solid Dodgers’ bullpen who held the Braves to their 2 runs scored in the 4th. The Braves put consecutive walks on the bases that moved to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt and then both scored on a long single to get the home team on the board.

But the Dodgers were the ones with the advantage. They also struck first with a 2-out walk that scored on an RBI double in the 1st. But their big inning was the 6th. With 2 outs and runners in scoring position, a new reliever for the Braves gave up a 2-run single to put the Dodgers back in the lead. Then, a lead-off single and walk scored as part of a 3-run home run to kick off the 7th to ensure their victory and advance to the next round.

Final score: 6-2 Dodgers, Dodgers defeat Braves 3-1

ALDS A: Astros at Indians
Despite the hometown fervor, the Astros would not be deterred from sweeping the Indians in this series. The Indians got a few runs early. In the 3rd, a lead-off single moved to 2nd on a single, then to 3rd on a sacrifice bunt, before scoring on a sacrifice fly. And a 2-out solo home run in the 5th doubled the home team’s score. But while their starter held the Astros off for most of the game, I can’t say the same about their bullpen.

The Indians’ starter gave up a 1-out solo home run to the Astros. But then their bullpen crumbled. In the 7th, a single moved to 2nd on a pick-off error, to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a fielder’s choice out to tie up the game. The next batter made it to 1st on a throwing error, and a walk loaded the bases. A double then scored 2 more Astros runs.

A 1-out solo home run in the 8th kept the ball rolling, as the Astros loaded the bases with a double, a walk, and an intentional walk. A single allowed from a new pitcher scored just one run, and a wild pitch scored another, before a 3-run home run pushed them further in the lead. And a lead-off walk in the 9th moved to 2nd on a balk, made it to 3rd on a ground out, and scored on a single to cap off the Astros’ big scoring afternoon.

The Indians at least made a small effort to reclaim some of the gap in the bottom of the 9th with a last-ditch effort. A lead-off walk moved to 2nd on a single. A double play moved the lead runner to 3rd before he scored on a wild pitch. But they ran out of outs.

Final score: 11-3 Astros, Astros sweep series 3-0

ALDS B: Red Sox at Yankees
And up in New York, the Red Sox showed up to reclaim their lost game on Saturday, and the Yankees forgot how to play baseball. The Red Sox clearly were in command of tonight’s game from start to finish, only giving up a single run to the Yankees in the 4th. Voit led-off with a single (that the Red Sox unwisely challenged). Stanton’s single moved Voit to 3rd, and Didi Gregorius hit into a grounder at 2nd that still scored Voit. Now, it would have scored Voit either way, but the call was originally a double play. The Yankees challenged the call at 1st, and it was rightly overturned.

Now, the Yankees pitching just wasn’t working tonight, as every pitcher gave up at least one run, most multiple runs. Luis Severino wasn’t in the kind of shape we recently saw in the Wild Card game, instead struggled his way into the 4th inning, giving up 70 pitches, 7 hits, 2 walks, and 6 runs, and striking out just 2 Boston batters. In the 2nd, a lead-off single stole 2nd on a strikeout, moved to 3rd on a grounder, and then scored on a single to kick off Boston’s big night.

A lead-off single in the 3rd ended up on 3rd on a single and sloppy throw and then score don a sacrifice fly. Another single left runners on the corners, and a fielder’s choice out scored a run. But it was the 4th inning that made the difference. Severino came back out for the 4th to load up the bases with 2 singles and a walk.

It was Lance Lynn’s turn. He promptly gave up a walk to score 1 run and a bases-clearing double to score 3 more. After finally getting an out in the inning, he gave up a single before trudging his way to the dugout and handing the ball to Chad Green. Green got another out but then gave up an RBI single and a 2-RBI triple.

Jonathan Holder had a better time in the 6th but then struggled on his own in the 7th, giving up 1-out ground-rule double and a 2-out walk. A single scored that lead runner. Then Jonathan Tarpley had his own troubles in the 8th. He gave up consecutive singles that scored one on a ground-rule double. A 1-out wild pitch scored the other, and a walk loaded the bases before a single scored one more run.

And in the 9th, with the Yankees so far behind, the opted to do something they’d never done before — send in a position player to pitch the final inning. This time, it was Austin Romine. And honestly, Romine had a decent outing for a non-pitcher, 10 of his 18 pitches being strikes. He got 2 quick outs before giving up a walk that scored as part of a 2-run home run to end the Red Sox’s big night.

Final score: 16-1 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 2-1

A few game notes from the Yankees-Red Sox game: the Red Sox player that homered off Romine in the 9th (Holt) actually hit for the cycle in tonight’s game. Doing so means that he hit a single, a double, a triple, and a home run all in one game. This made his the first player in MLB history to hit for the cycle in a postseason game.

Also, 1st base umpire Angel Hernandez had a bit of trouble with some key calls there. Already notorious for his style and skills, Hernandez made 4 calls that were challenged. Of those, 3 were overturned on replay. And they weren’t even close calls. It certainly set social media on fire, which quickly dubbed tonight’s game the “Angel Hernandez game”.

Go Yankees!

ALDS 1: CLE vs. HOU, NYY vs. BOS & NLDS 2: COL vs. MIL, ATL vs. LAD — A very busy but predictable Friday

It’s days like this, with the flurry of activity, that really amp up the drama that leads up to the final bit of this season. For those of us who follow the entire day, it’s quite overwhelming at times. But oddly, it ended up being kind of predictable.

NLDS 2a: Rockies at Brewers
The Brewers and Rockies continue to prove they are pretty evenly matched in this postseason series. But the Brewers found their opportunities and capitalized on them well. In the 4th, a 1-out double scored on a ground-rule double to get the home team on the board. But then, they were held to that lone run for most of the game.

Then in the 8th, the Brewers loaded the bases with no outs. A single scored one runner. And 2 outs later, a single scored 2 more runs. That and some really tight pitching ensured the Brewers’ shutout victory.

Final score: 4-0 Brewers, Brewers lead series 2-0

NLDS 2b: Braves at Dodgers
The Dodgers sent their ace pitcher for tonight’s game and he just breezed his way through 8 scoreless innings allowing just 2 hits. The Braves’ offense just struggled their way through the whole game.

The Dodgers’ offense, however, found an early chance to ensure their lead in the game and series. They gave up a double that moved to 3rd on a ground out. A 2-out 2-run home run gave them that early lead. And a lead-off solo home run in the 5th added that extra insurance run for them they wouldn’t need in this game. And the Braves’ bullpen actually snapped into action to keep the Dodgers to that small early lead.

Final score: 3-0 Dodgers, Dodgers lead series 2-0

ALDS 1a: Indians at Astros
The ALDS series began today and had the Indians and Astros show off their strong pitching rotations. Seriously, of all the teams in the postseason, the two teams with the strongest starting pitching are these two teams. And while they certainly showed off their stuff, there was enough early on to give both teams hope. And then the Astros pulled away and showed why they won 103 games this season.

The Astros struck first with a lead-off solo home run in the 4th. Then a walk moved to 2nd on a 2-out single and then scored on another single to double their score. Then they came back in the 5th with consecutive solo home runs to lead-off that inning to again double that score.

The Indians finally answered back in the 6th by loading up the bases and pushing out the Astros’ starter. A wild pitch by the reliever moved all the runners up and scored the Indians’ first run. Another run scored on a ground out to half the Astros’ lead.

But the home team got both of them back in the 7th with a lead-off solo home run. Then a single moved to 2nd on a grounder and scored on a single. And a 1-out double in the 8th scored on an RBI single to finish the game on a strong note for the Astros’ fans packing their hometown park.

Final score: 7-2 Astros, Astros lead series 1-0

ALDS 1b: Yankees at Red Sox
And up in Boston, the Yankees just had a series of miscues that didn’t make tonight work in the end. JA Happ, the assumed Wild Card starter, got the start and just flustered his way into the 3rd inning. A 1-out single and walk in the 1st scored as part of a 3-run home run to get the Red Sox on the board in a hurry. After giving up a double and single to put runners on the corners, the Yankees turned to Chad Green.

Green had his own issues keeping the home team’s momentum down. He gave up a single that easily scored the runner from 3rd. A fly out moved the other runner to 3rd so that he could then score on a sacrifice fly. But then Green held them off for the 4th inning. Lynn, Britton, and Robertson then finished off the final 4 innings and kept the Red Sox to those early runs.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox has a strong starting rotation, and their ace pitcher Sale started tonight’s game and held the Yankees off until the 6th inning. Judge led-off the inning with a single but then was out on Gardner’s fielder’s choice grounder. And Stanton then singled. That was the end of Sale’s night, but he was responsible for Gardner and Stanton.

Luke Voit then hit a nice single to score Gardner, and Didi Gregorius hit into a fielder’s choice grounder at 2nd that still scored Stanton. Walks to Andujar and Sanchez loaded up the bases to prove the Red Sox’s bullpen isn’t as strong as their starters. But the Yankees also started a pattern that wasn’t going to work out well for them — load up the bases and leave them stranded.

In the 7th, they loaded up the bases with singles by McCutchen and Judge and a walk to Gardner. With 1 out, Voit hit into a ground out at 2nd that still scored McCutchen. But they left runners in scoring position again. When the Red Sox needed just 3 outs in the 9th to close out their game, Aaron Judge put a slight kink in that with a lead-off solo home run to trim the Red Sox lead down to just 1 run.

But 3 strikeouts later, the game was over. It’s just going to prove this series is going to be super

Final score: 5-4 Red Sox, Red Sox lead series 1-0

Quick side note: in the Yankees-Red Sox game, Aaron Hicks came out of the game in the 4th after hitting a single and kind of lightly running to 1st base. Replaced by Gardner (who definitely impacted the game), Hicks seemed to re-injure his hamstring injury that plagued him late last month. He will go for an MRI to figure out his postseason future. If he is out for this series, like they put him on the DL, he will be ineligible for the rest of the postseason. Hopefully, that won’t happen. But the best outcome is always the healthy outcome.

Go Yankees!

2018 Wild Cards: COL vs. CHC & OAK vs. NYY — October baseball, a little wild

If the Wild Card games are any indication of how the 2018 postseason is going to be, it’s going to be one wild ride this October. The National League Wild Card reflected how tight the NL has been and ended up going down to the wire before the postseason began. And the American League Wild Card showed off the Yankees.

NL Wild Card: Rockies vs. Cubs (Tuesday)
This game was one of those super dramatic, tight games that makes these one-off games worth the effort. Both teams sent in their ace pitchers, Freeland and Lester, who both pitched deep into the game. Both only gave up 4 hits and a walk. But the Rockies got one run early in the game.

In the 1st, a lead-off walk moved to 3rd on a ground-rule double and then scored on a sacrifice fly. But then the Cubs held off the Rockies for the rest of the regular game. The Rockies pretty much matched them in offense and defense, which resulted in this insane, edge-of-your-seat kind of game.

But then, in the bottom of the 8th, with 2 outs, a Cubs’ batter singled, stole 2nd, and then scored on a double to finally tie up the game. And the hometown crowd went wild. And the game eventually went into extra innings. 13 of them.

In the 13th, with 2 outs (again), the Rockies’ batter singled, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a single to break the tie. The small contingent of Colorado fans were suddenly excited. Their wish came true when their pitcher breezed his way through 3 strikeouts in the bottom of the 13th to send the Cubs back to their clubhouse to watch the rest of the postseason from their couches.

Final score: 2-1 Rockies, in 13 innings

AL Wild Card: Athletics vs. Yankees (Wednesday)
The next night, the AL Wild Card teams were ready for their own dramatic one-off game. And while the Yankees certainly outshone the Athletics in the end, the A’s weren’t exactly sitting on their hands. They are a good team. The Yankees are just better.

The A’s decided to piece together their bullpen to see if that could stop the Yankees. Yeah, it didn’t. Andrew McCutchen led-off the 1st with a walk and then scored when Aaron Judge hit a nice 2-run home run into the left field seats. But then the A’s pitchers did a good job of keeping the Yankees to those early runs.

Then in the 6th, Judge led-off with a double and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double. After a new reliever came into the game, a wild pitch moved Hicks to 3rd and Stanton worked a walk. Stanton then stole 2nd putting both runners in scoring position. Then they did so on Luke Voit’s big triple, just inches shy of a 3-run homer in right field.

A sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius then found Voit hustling home, barely touching home plate before being tagged. The A’s challenged the tag, but it was upheld. It wasn’t quite clear if he was tagged just before he touched the plate, but there was no proof he wasn’t either. So, the run stood. Not that it mattered. The Yankees kept rolling. And Giancarlo Stanton led-off the 8th inning with a monster solo home run into the corner of the left field seats.

Luis Severino was tapped for the start, which based on his second half showing, had many in Yankee Universe nervous. But they made it clear that if he fell apart like last year’s Wild Card game, there was a enough power in the bullpen to cover him. He didn’t really need it much because he was off to a stellar start, mostly breezing his way through the first 4 innings, including 7 sharp strikeouts.

Then in the 5th, he gave up 2 singles, his first allowed hits of the night, and instead of waiting to see if Severino could pull it together, they the Yankees went to the bullpen and called in Dellin Betances, who worked his way out of Severino’s trouble in the 5th and then sailed his way through the 6th. David Robertson followed this momentum with a clean 12-pitch 7th inning.

Zach Britton came in for the 8th and became the first Yankees pitcher to really struggle this game. He gave up a lead-off single. The next batter hit into what was originally called a double play, but the Athletics challenged and it was clear that the runner beat out the ball at 1st. So it ended up overturned as just 1 out. But then the next batter hit a 2-run home run to finally get the Athletics on the board. But then Britton tamped down and got himself out of the inning.

And Aroldis Chapman, postseason veteran, came out for the 9th and came out clean, even fielding the final out himself, helping seal the win for the Yankees to advance.

Final score: 7-2 Yankees

This means that the Division Series are set. Thursday, the NLDS games start. The Brewers host the Rockies, and the Dodgers host the Braves. The ALDS starts Friday — the Astros host the Indians, and the Red Sox host the Yankees. The Divsion Series games run 2 games, travel day, 2 games, travel day, 1 game. The first team to 3 wins win the series and advance to the Championship Series that begin on Friday, October 12.

Postseason Predictions:

  • Wild Card
    • Predictions: Rockies over Cubs, Yankees over Athletics
    • Results: Rockies over Cubs, Yankees over Athletics
    • Success (in batting average): 1.000
  • Division Series:
    • NLDS 1: Brewers over Rockies in 4 games
    • NLDS 2: Dodgers over Braves in 4 games
    • ALDS 1: Astros over Indians in 3 games
    • ALDS 2: Yankees over Red Sox in 5 games

This means I am hoping for an NLCS between the Brewers and Dodgers, and an ALCS between the Astros and Yankees. And with my track record, chances are at least 1 or 2 of my predictions will be wrong. I’m ready for it. But fingers crossed that it won’t be the Yankees-Red Sox one.

Go Yankees!

Game 158: NYY vs. TB — So close and yet…

I’m guessing that tonight’s game will be one that the Yankees and the Rays won’t want to remember any time soon. Neither team played exceptionally well, and neither team really came out looking like a winning season kind of team that they both are. It was just one of those games that you’re glad is over, learn from the mistakes, turn the page, and start fresh tomorrow.

The Yankees got on the board first, facing the Rays’ brief starter in their bullpen-pieced pitching staff again. McCutchen led-off the game with a single and moved to 2nd on Stanton’s 2-out walk. Neil Walker then hit a big 3-run home run right up the middle to get the Yankees started with a solid lead.

It didn’t last long. Masahiro Tanaka got the start for the Yankees and wasn’t exactly having the kind of memorable night. He threw 80 pitches in 4 innings, gave up 6 hits, a walk, and 4 runs (3 earned), and struck out 4 Rays’ batters. In the 1st, he gave up a single, a walk, and an RBI single before getting the first out of the inning, a strikeout.

But then the next batter hit a baby grounder back to the mound, but a poor throw by Tanaka allowed him to be safe and the lead runner to score. He hit the next batter to load up the bases before giving up another single to score the tying run but keep the bases loaded. He then managed to get 2 consecutive strikeouts to leave the Rays stranded there.

A 1st pitch, lead-off solo home run in the 3rd gave the Rays the slim lead, and the teams battled most of the game to maintain the close game. Holder, Green, and Chapman each took an inning to keep things tight through the 7th inning. But David Robertson had some issues in the bottom of the 8th.

A lead-off walk scored on an RBI double to add to the Rays lead. A passed ball then moved the runner to 3rd. Robertson finally got an out, a strikeout, to hold that runner just 90 feet from home. But the next batter hit into a fielder’s choice and still ended up safe at 1st as the runner also scored. Late to the defense and everyone’s safe.

Another single ended with runners on the corners. Then the next batter hit a bunt single that scored the runner from 3rd. Originally, it was called out at 2nd (which means the run still scored, by the way), but the Rays rightly challenged and the call was overturned. Again, everyone’s safe.

That Rays’ lead now expanding further. It was time to go back to the bullpen. Justus Sheffield came on to help stem the tide. He immediately got a fielder’s choice out at 2nd to put runners at the corners. But then, Sheffield tried to pick-off the runner at 1st and bounced the ball to Voit, allowing both runners to move up and thus another runner to score. After a grounder ended the inning, the Yankees were back in the batter’s box for one last shot.

They took it and loaded up the bases. Sanchez led-off the 9th with a walk, Gardner hit a 1-out single, and McCutchen singled. Aaron Judge’s single scored Sanchez, keeping the bases loaded. Luke Voit hit a really long single that scored both Gardner and McCutchen and moved Judge to 3rd. Judge kept things rolling by scoring on Giancarlo Stanton’s single to put the Yankees within just 1 run again. Voit advanced to 3rd on a flyout, but Andujar then popped out in foul territory to end the game.

Final score: 8-7 Rays

Injury update: There’s good news in Yankee Universe. I promise. Didi Gregorius has been cleared to resume baseball activities. That means he can start working out again, throwing a ball, swinging a bat, working on fielding, and get back into the game sooner than later.

And there’s a lot of talk about the upcoming Wild Card game. The Yankees need 2 more wins (of the 4 games left to play) to secure home field advantage. But does that actually matter in a one-off game like the Wild Card? According to statistics, no. In 12 Wild Card games over the last 6 years, 5 home teams have won and 7 visiting teams won. And the Yankees got home field both times they were Wild Card and are split in their success — lost to the Astros in 2015, won over the Twins in 2017.

In other words, you can’t predict baseball, and a lot of the superstitions, suppositions, and “traditions” are bunk.

Go Yankees!

Game 156: NYY vs. TB — Bullpens’ night to shine

The Yankees begin their final week of the season with a trip down to Tampa Bay for a 4-game series. For quite a few games this season, the Rays have been using their bullpen for their every day pitching staff, splitting games between their bullpen with no real starter. This was due in part to early injuries and trades of their starting pitching stars, but it’s worked for them, as they’re finishing well above .500 and just a few game out of the second Wild Card spot.

So, the Yankees decided to follow their lead and pieced together their own bullpen pitching day for tonight’s opener. And it worked, starting with Holder and Tarpley each taking a scoreless inning.

Sonny Gray came on for a scoreless 3rd, but had a few issues in the 4th. He gave up a lead-off double that moved to 3rd on a passed ball, held on base with a single, and then scored on a double play to get the Rays their lone run. After Gray, the Yankees breezed through their bullpen allowing an inning each to Green, Robertson, Chapman, Betances, and then Britton for the save.

But the Yankees knew how to hit into the Rays’ staff and take the opportunities when they were given. Andrew McCutchen started things off with a 1-out solo home run in the 3rd into the left field seats.

And in the 5th, with 2 outs, Judge worked a walk, moved to 2nd on a passed ball, and then scored on Brett Gardner’s single. Giancarlo Stanton’s double scored Gardner before Stanton got thrown out going for 3rd to end the inning. And McCutchen hit a 1-out double in the 7th and then scored on Aaron Judge’s double.

Final score: 4-1 Yankees

Injury updates: Aaron Hicks came out of the game in the 4th due to a tight hamstring. At first, I think people were concerned this might be a lingering issue with the ankle bruise from fouling off a ball from his ankle Saturday just before he hit the walk-off single. But it was the hamstring. Fortunately, there is a plethora of outfielders on the roster, but Hicks is quite the contributor in the field and in the box.

Didi Gregorius is feeling better after sustaining a torn cartilage in his wrist on that aforementioned walk-off win on Saturday. The cortisone shot seems to be working, and Gregorius is hoping to be back before the end of the season or at least to play in the Wild Card game.

Okay, no more injuries, people. I know that at this point in the year that everyone’s a bit banged up. But take care of yourselves. We’re hoping for a full Yankees roster for a great (and full) postseason.

And in a fun pre-game adventure, the Tampa Bay area was hit with a sudden major storm, filled with lightning, thunder, and buckets of rain. Now, the Trop is a dome, so no need for a rain delay. But the lightning struck the Trop as the thunder kind of shook the building. And the lights and all the power went out.

Pre-game promos were halted for a bit as generators kicked in and kept auxiliary lights on, while the building had to be rebooted. The main lights on the field, for example, take quite a bit of time to power up, especially if they’ve been suddenly turned off. It certainly made for an interesting start to the night.

Go Yankees!